Monthly Archives: April 2013

Getting to Know Morgan Hill

In moving to a new area,  there are so many things to discover in your everyday life. It’s so much more than just knowing where you’re going to live and work – What will your favorite new restaurants be? Where will you exercise? Shop? What activities will you be involved in? After moving to the Bay Area last month, I thought about all of these things and much more, many of which I have yet to figure out.

Harley making new friends at the dog park

Harley making new friends at the dog park

While I quickly discovered a dog park to take Harley to, where the closest Trader Joe’s is, and my new favorite winery, finding a gym took a few more weeks, and I’m still figuring out things like good hiking spots. In the past week, I’ve discovered a couple of things in my new town that I’m happy about — because uncovering the little things that I’ll take pleasure in will allow me to feel better connected to this area and make up the pieces of the puzzle of my life.

First, I found a quirky health food store in Morgan Hill called People and Planet. When I walked in, I found myself walking through different little rooms of health products. I honestly wasn’t sure if I came in the right way, especially when I passed a woman in a massage room that smelled like aromatherapy. I wound up walking through to the main part of the store, a big warehouse-like room full of neat healthy living products. This type of place obviously makes a foodie & health nut like me happy, and I nabbed a bunch of random things to try – most notably PB2.

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I’ve heard of PB2 before but for some reason hadn’t come across it yet. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, PB2 is a powdered peanut butter. It gives you the taste of typical peanut butter but with a lot less calories and fat. It’s kind of awesome! I quickly came up with a concoction using my new PB2 and some butterscotch extract that I also picked up at the store:

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To make this yogurt combo, I mixed a serving of PB2 with water and 1/4 TSP of the extract…

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…and then I added the PB2 mixture to a plain Greek yogurt, and topped it with banana slices and sprinkled cinnamon. So yummy!

Yesterday my hubby and I checked out the farmers market. As you may remember, I adored the San Diego market and visited it often. Although I wasn’t expecting it to be as huge and awesome as the SD one, I was hoping that it had a nice selection of local produce to choose from. The market wound up being small yet charming, and I came home with a bag full of kale, strawberries, popcorn, broccoli, cheese, focaccia bread and tomatoes:

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Other than finding cool places in my new town, I’m also looking to connect with some people here. A few of the ways I’m pursuing this include plans to join a photography club and to also volunteer at my local Humane Society. Sometimes you just need to put yourself out there right? I look forward to seeing what other chances to make new friends come my way.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Harley photobombing this shot of my health food store picks:

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It cracks me up how she’s always lurking in pictures. She’s like my little canine shadow. 😉

Gourmet Vegetable Sandwiches

Hi friends! Hope that your weekend is off to a great start. My hubby and I are planning on checking out the Saturday farmers market in our town today, and I’m looking forward to nabbing local produce directly from the source. There are tons of farms around us, and I get excited about straight-from-the-farm-to-the-table food. I’ll keep you posted!

Today’s recipe is inspired by one I recently saw in Vegetarian Times magazine for roasted veggie sandwiches with a zesty white bean spread. I had planned on making their exact recipe, but when it came time to make dinner, I had a growling stomach and didn’t want dinner prep to be time intensive (I feel like this has been a theme lately!). So, instead of roasting veggies, I quickly sauteed them, and instead of making a bean spread, I used homemade hummus I already had in my fridge. I’m calling these sandwiches gourmet because they seem fancier than plain old veggie sandwiches, especially with the bread I used – Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough bread with sesame and sunflower seeds:

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I paired the sandwiches with Trader Joe’s sweet potato tots for a satisfying veggie-packed dinner:

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Gourmet Vegetable Sandwiches
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ large zucchini, sliced diagonally
  • 1½ red bell pepper, seeded, cored, and sliced
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 slices cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup hummus
  • 8 slices whole-grain bread
  • 1½ TBSP olive oil
  • ½ TSP sea salt
  • ½ TSP black pepper
  • ½ TSP cumin
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add red onion, zucchini, and bell pepper to the pan. Season with sea salt, pepper, and cumin, and cook until veggies are tender, about 7 minutes.
  3. Spread hummus and a slice of cheese on 4 slices of the whole grain bread.
  4. Once veggies are done cooking, evenly place onto the other 4 slices slice of bread. Add a handful of arugula and slices of tomato to each. Place hummus/cheese topped bread on top of veggies topped bread and enjoy!
Notes
*The multigrain bread I used has the following nutrition information per slice: 130 calories, 2 g fat, 28 g carbs, 5 g protein.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 sandwich, Calories: 460, Fat: 16 g, Saturated fat: 4 g, Carbohydrates: 73 g, Fiber: 7 g, Protein: 21 g

Live with Intention

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Last night after watching my DVRed episode of The Following (SO good yet SO disturbing!), I needed to watch something lighter to get visions of psychopaths and murder out of my head before going to sleep. I wound up putting on a reality TV show about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. In the episode, Ryan talks about his work hard, play hard mentality. While I don’t think show is meant to be inspirational or anything more than goofy late night entertainment, I went to sleep thinking about how this mindset really resonates with me and is how I always want to live my life giving my all, taking chances, and living life to the fullest.

When I woke up, I zipped through my work with great productivity. Later on I had a session with a personal trainer at my gym. I went into the workout with Ryan Lochte’s go-big-or-go-home mentality, which was a good thing since the trainer came up with a challenging combination of exercises that I powered through. After 90 minutes and almost 800 calories burned at the gym, I left a sweaty mess and felt pretty damn awesome.

In giving 100% of effort to my day, I was reminded how I want to make sure to live my life with this kind of intention every single day. Too many people walk through life settling, not really being happy, not challenging themselves often enough. I want to always strive to live my best life and have a positive attitude.

When it comes to giving your best effort in terms of working out, I challenge you to push yourself in the upcoming days. If you regularly work out hard, work out harder. If you usually walk or do a mindless elliptical routine, try to jog or switch it up with something more challenging. And if you don’t exercise at all, get out there and do something active. Push yourself beyond what you think your limits are, because you’re stronger than you think. And know this…

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Peppermint Dark Chocolate Smoothie

Last night I took my first class at my new gym – a nice & sweaty kickboxing session. When I got home from working out, I needed something to eat quick that would please my growling stomach, replenish my muscles with some protein, and also satisfy my mood for something chocolatey. I hadn’t had dinner yet but it was kind of late, so I wanted something that could double as a nutritious little meal AND dessert. I knew just the thing to make, as I had picked up peppermint extract during my last grocery store run and was anxious to try it out.

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This smoothie did not disappoint! It’s definitely my new favorite shake combo. Peppermint extract is the key to this recipe. It tastes like dessert, yet it can work for a meal or snack at anytime in the day.

Peppermint Dark Chocolate Smoothie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • ½ banana, preferably frozen
  • ½ scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 cup chocolate soy milk (or almond, rice, regular dairy, etc.)
  • 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ TSP peppermint extract
  • Ice
  • 1 TBSP dark chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth.
  2. Add the chocolate chips, and pulse for just about 10 seconds to grind them up a bit but not completely.
  3. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 250, Fat: 9 g, Saturated fat: 3.5 g, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Sugar: 16 g, Fiber: 9 g, Protein: 17 g

 

Strawberry Avocado Sunflower Seed Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

Hi there! My weekend has been filled with fun and gorgeous weather. Yesterday I researched some hiking spots in the area and we ventured out to explore one of them. Though we wound up not getting to the trail we had originally been aiming for, we still found a pretty area to get some exercise in.

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I think I’m almost getting used to having cows roaming around near me. We saw a couple of pretty deer frolicking in a field, and on our way back saw a man riding a BULL. I had no idea that riding a bull on the side of the road is a thing that people do nowadays. In response to this comment, Adam said, ”Well at least one guy does…” Yes I suppose!

Today we had our first real beach day since moving to the Bay Area. We went to Santa Cruz, and there was not a cloud in the sky. When we got home from our afternoon of sunbathing (and my applying and reapplying of lotion yet still getting burnt!), both Adam and I were hungry for dinner. I quickly threw together a yummy salad using some strawberries that were about to be overripe, while Adam cooked some chicken to throw in with his:

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I hardly ever use prepared salad dressings anymore because I find it so easy to just combine a few ingredients to make a healthy, tasty more homemade one myself. Recently I’ve been doing an olive oil + lemon juice + balsamic glaze dressing, but for tonight’s dinner, I wanted to try juicing some strawberries to pair my fruity salad with a bit of a fruity dressing. The result was a simple 3-ingredient salad topper that went perfectly with my salad combo.

Strawberry Avocado Sunflower Seed Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing
Author: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head of red leaf lettuce
  • 1 cup strawberries, plus ½ cup more for dressing
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1.5 TBSP balsamic glaze
  • 32 g roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • 2 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • ⅛ TSP sea salt
Instructions
  1. Chop lettuce and place in a large salad bowl.
  2. Slice 1 cup of the strawberries, avocado, and cheese and mix in with the lettuce.
  3. Sprinkle sunflower seeds over the salad.
  4. Place the remaining strawberries in a juicer, putting the juice in a small bowl.
  5. Add balsamic glaze and sea salt to the strawberry juice, whisking together to combine.
  6. Pour dressing evenly over the salad, tossing to combine.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 400, Fat: 27 g, Saturated fat: 8 g, Carbohydrates: 31 g, Fiber: 9 g, Protein: 15 g, Cholesterol: 30 g

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Measuring My Body Fat Percentage

After a few months of doing lots of outdoor workouts and at-home exercises with little gym time, I was AFready to join a gym in my new town. My hubby thinks I’m nutty, but I like to immediately feel good vibes at the gym I join. After all, I know I’ll spend a lot of time there! In the past I’ve been a member at gyms with interesting scenes – including one that had just turned coed from being an all-male gym (HELLO shirtless grunting men everywhere!), one that felt more like a club than a gym (lots of women with their hair down and cleavage out, hanging around waiting to get picked up) and one where a couple of my ex-boyfriends worked out (awkward!). So, after checking out a couple of facilities, I found an Anytime Fitness club that seemed like the perfect fit and immediately joined. It’s smaller but nice, they offer classes I’ll be taking advantage of, and they have a stair master, which I enjoy doing and was missing at my past gym. In the 4 days I’ve been there so far, there has yet to be more than 10 people working out at one time – and that’s at the typical prime evening rush hour. I have access to it 24/7, so I can technically go to the gym at 3 am if I’d like. Hey, who knows, maybe one night if I can’t sleep it’ll happen. 😉

Yesterday I met with the personal trainer at the gym for a new member assessment. The most interesting thing about our meeting was testing my body fat percentage. I haven’t done so in a quite awhile and was really curious as to what it would say. Using this handy little contraption…

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…I found out that my body fat percentage is currently 18%. Based on the chart below, I measure at the backend of being ‘lean’.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect, so this was pleasant to hear. But in talking about my goals with the trainer, I said that I’d like to be more lean and toned. My plan is to eat really clean and exercise hard (read: less wine and dessert, just a bit more intense in my sweat sessions), then measure my body fat again in a month or two to see what progress I’ve made. Looking at weight lost or gained can be dicey sometimes. I could bust my butt and not lose a pound of the scale, yet I may have gained muscle and lost fat. Looking at body fat percentage is probably a better way at measuring my hard work, so we shall see what happens! I appreciate my body – curves and all – yet I’d like to strive for the best me I can be and see where it takes me.

With that said, I’m currently drinking a berry protein smoothie for breakfast…
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…and then I’ll be getting ready to find a new hiking spot with my little family. Hope you have an active, healthy weekend full of fun!

Humanity is an Ocean…

Like most Americans, I remember exactly where I was when 9/11 happened.

I was at my high school, and they wouldn’t clue the students in on what was going on. After all, so many people commute from New Jersey to New York every day. I had classmates whose parents worked in the city, friends whose dads were in the twin towers, family who was near it all. The school didn’t want us students to panic. I remember calling my mom to see what was going on, hearing her voice crack over the phone. When I later realized the weight of what had happened, I remember being overcome by the feeling that people are evil. Soon after on a chilly fall day when I looked at the billows of smoke and fog, which had taken the place of where the buildings had stood tall, I wondered how we would ever recover.

Since that fateful day, every time there is a tragedy, I have the same distinct feeling of sadness for the darkness that exists in this world, a thought of, What is wrong with people? Sometimes it’s a recurring notion, like when I deal with abused animals while volunteering at the Humane Society. I also feel it in instances that are trivial in the overall scheme of things, but in the moment make you question humanity. I felt it deeply after the Newtown shootings occurred, and I’ve been engulfed in it this week in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. My heart especially aches when I look at this picture of one of the bombing’s victims, 8-year old Martin Richard:

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(source)

No more hurting people. 

Yet another life senselessly lost… and it seems as though these types of shocking events have happened a lot lately.

A lot of lives will never be the same, and as our society mourns, it’s easy to form the belief that evil is everywhere, that those who want to cause us harm are around every corner. But the problem is that if we hold this cynical attitude, we’re too busy focusing on the hate to see that there too is kindness around us. We need to grieve, need to find out whose responsible, need to figure out ways to ensure that less of these tragedies are even possible, but we can’t let the venom of the people who commit these acts sting us so badly that it forever defeats us.

I want to live in a world where good overcomes evil, where acts of kindness are stronger than acts of twisted hatred. Holding this sentiment can be difficult with so many examples of cruelty around us, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot since seeing this tweet from Ellen DeGeneres:

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I don’t know about you, but I’m in need of some inspiration, some examples of kindheartedness and words of strength and love  – things to help remind me that most people are good, and that this belief will prevail. Below are some things I’ve come across that I find to be encouraging in wake of such a tragedy. Please feel free to share your thoughts and any words that inspire you below.

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After the Newtown massacre, NBC news correspondent Ann Curry asked the public to perform 26 acts of kindness, one for each of the victims. In response to Boston, she’s begun a #26Acts2 movement with the same concept. Search #26Acts2 on Twitter and you’ll find many people who have performed random acts of kindness as a tribute to those effected in the bombings.

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Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

PHOTO – Christians showing up to a gay pride parade in Chicago to apologize for homophobia in the church:

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This article about the Boston Marathon tragedy being met with lovely acts of kindness. The piece includes this comedian’s response to the tragedy and his belief about humankind…

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”When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” – Fred Rogers, ”Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book”

I received an email from the Challenged Athletes Foundation today, and they’ve set up a donation page to help support those injured in the marathon blasts. As you may remember from when I was involved in their San Diego triathlon challenge last year, the organization’s mission is to help support physically challenged athletes. For those who lost limbs in the tragedy, CAF plans to work with prosthetists and will be offering a free clinic in Boston this fall that victims will be encouraged to attend.

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This photo of a villager in Cuttack City, India, bringing kittens to dry land during a flood:

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You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” – Gandhi

Creamy Pasta Shells with Mushrooms, Green Beans & Pine Nuts

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Last week as I was flipping through my cookbooks looking for some inspiration while meal planning, I came across a recipe in my Essential Vegetarian book that caught my eye. It was a recipe for fettuccine with creamy mushroom and bean sauce. I decided to use whole wheat pasta shells and altered some of the ingredients, and the meal came out pretty delicious if I do say so myself!

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Creamy Pasta Shells with Mushrooms, Green Beans & Pine Nuts
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 12 oz [whole wheat] small pasta shells
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • 6 oz green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced diagonally
  • 3 TBSP chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino romano
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and return to the pot.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the portobello slices and string beans and cook for about 5 minutes or until the veggies are slightly tender, stirring often.
  3. Pour in the white wine, veggie stock and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Mix the sauce in with the pasta. Add basil, pine nuts, grated cheese, and sun-dried tomato slices and toss to combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 480, Fat: 23 g, Carbohydrates: 51 g, Fiber: 7 g, Protein: 11 g

Why I Love Mangoes

Before I talk about anything else today, I must first mention the Boston Marathon bombing. I’ve had a sick feeling in my gut watching the news and thinking about how such a celebratory event turned so tragic. People put so much time and effort into training for the marathon, and to think that the day was ruined by a terrorist/group of terrorists is utterly disheartening. A few people lost their lives, and many more will be forever scarred by what happened today. I can only imagine the feelings of panic that people felt as the explosions went off, and my thoughts are with everyone who was effected today. I can only hope that in moving forward, those injured will recover well, the loved ones of those lost can find a way to carry on, and that justice will be served to whoever is responsible.

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Onto a much lighter and less depressing topic, let’s talk about mangoes. I just snacked on a piece of the fruit for dessert tonight. If you’re wondering what’s so great about this nature’s candy, here are some benefits of eating mangoes:

  • Good source of Vitamin A 
  • High in Vitamin C (about 100 percent of the recommended daily amount in 1 cup!)
  • Offers fiber, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, and potassium
  • Also a source of folate
  • Offers antioxidant compounds that are thought to help prevent against certain types of cancer

When you eat a lot of produce like mangoes, you nourish your body with lots of vitamins and build a stronger immune system.

I’ve heard people refer to the sugar content in mangoes in a negative light, but the fact of the matter is, it’s naturally occurring sugar. I don’t buy into the hype that we really need to watch the amount of sugar we eat that comes from fruit. Anything totally naturally like mangoes is a-okay in my book. Mango will satisfy a sweet craving any day!

Girl Time in San Francisco

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Hi friends!

What an awesome weekend it has been…though it zipped by so quickly! Yesterday I got to hang out with one of my best friends, Danielle. She lives in Jersey but was here in California for work all last week, so we planned a weekend together. We met in San Francisco yesterday morning, and it was a beautiful day out. I’ve only been to San Fran once before when Adam and I did a road trip up the California coast, so I was excited to see the city again. We did some touristy things, including driving down the windy Lombard st…

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…checking out the Golden Gate Bridge…

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…walking around Fishermans Wharf:

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..and taking lots of pictures of boats, seals, Alcatraz Island, and the gorgeous scenery:

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After having a bite to eat, we drove back to my area to do some late afternoon wine tasting. We first went to my new favorite winery, Clos LaChance. The winery was all set up for a wedding, and I was again in awe at the lovely view and the winery itself. I joined their wine club, and you better believe that this is my new favorite spot!

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We also stopped at a winery called Kirigin Cellars to taste some of their wines. I really enjoyed most of the wines I tried there, and we wound up taking a bottle of Petite Sirah home to sip on throughout the evening.

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I still can’t get over the fact that wineries with really decent wine are now a mere few miles away from where I live – or that San Francisco is only an hour drive from me now. I’m definitely going to be taking advantage of it often!

Afterwards, we headed back to my place to meet up with my hubby and have dinner together. We threw together a really yummy salad with romaine lettuce, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, vine ripe tomatoes, quinoa, & artichoke hearts, with a simple dressing of balsamic glaze, lemon juice and olive oil. I also served some fontina cheese, stilton cheese with apricots, grapes, apple, whole grain crackers, and sourdough bread that I couldn’t resist picking up in San Fran that was shaped like a turtle:

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It was so yummy! We spent the rest of the night hanging out, sipping wine and watching a movie.

Before catching her flight today, my time with Danielle ended on a good note this morning with some of my banana oatmeal pancakes with fresh strawberries and honey:

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Good people, beautiful weather, delicious food & wine… what else would I ask for in a weekend? And now I’m off to bed to get some sleep!